By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – As the contentious race for the governorship of Rio de Janeiro enters its final days, the race appears to be tightening as ex-Rio mayor Eduardo Paes has gained on frontrunner Wilson Witzel. A new Ibope poll shows that Witzel has dropped to 56 percent of intended votes while Paes has risen to 44 percent.
The new poll shows a net increase of eight points for the ex-mayor, with a margin of error of three percent. In Ibope’s previous poll last week, Witzel, had a comfortable lead over Paes, sixty to forty percent.
After hearing that he was closing the gap, an enthusiastic Paes credited his surge to voters learning more about the little-known Witzel. “People are getting to know this candidate. They voted for a person that they did not know who he was,” exclaimed Paes referring to Witzel’s victory in the first round on October 7th.
According to Paes, first round voters wrongly thought Witzel, a former federal judge, was akin to judges Marcelo Bretas and Sérgio Moro, both driving forces in Operação Lava Jato (Car Wash Operation).
“They thought [Witzel] was Bretas and Moro but he is not. He is full of deceptions and has a checkered past.”
Unsurprisingly, Witzel took a more cautious view of Ibope’s latest poll and was dubious about an alleged decline in his voter support.
“Everything that the people are telling us is demonstrating that [the poll] is not true,” Witzel explained. “Polls are for analysts. I am on the streets and, on the streets, I do not see this (decreased support)….I only see myself growing.”
Witzel had surprised election prognosticators by easily winning the first round of Rio’s governorship election, capturing 41 percent of the vote, more than twice as much as the runner-up Paes who had twenty percent.
Witzel’s late surge was largely attributed to his endorsement of right-wing presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro, currently the frontrunner to be elected Brazil’s next president over leftist rival Fernando Haddad.
Paes and Witzel will square off in the deciding second round runoff to decide Rio de Janeiro’s next governor this Sunday, October 28th.